Thursday, October 09, 2003

Unholy War - Is There Hope for the Middle East?

The violence in the Holy Land seems unrelenting. A suicide bomb kills Jewish civilians. An Israeli military strike follows. Radical Islamic groups swear "Death to the Zionists" and Israel vows to fight for her survival.

Meanwhile, the American "Road Map" for a two-state Palestine is in tatters and European nations begrudgingly acknowledge that Hamas may be a terrorist organization. Waves of Anti-Semitic propaganda and violence grow in the West and the politically-correct in the academy and the media ask for balance, fairness and understanding concerning the plight of all parties.

History is helpful for stimulating hope...Or at least giving us a more objective view of the present and the possibilities for the future.

In the mid-19th century both religious and secular leaders began to dream and plan for a safe Jewish homeland in Palestine, which was under the oversight of the aging Ottoman Empire. Small Jewish groups began legally purchasing and painstakingly transforming the land, with at least the tacit approval of some Arab and Turkish leaders.

In 1917 the Balfour Declaration offered England's support for a Jewish homeland. This would be abrogated less than 20 years later in light of Arab pressure.

Competing claims for the land, Arab rivalries, British waffling and local outbursts of Arab and Jewish violence made the 1920s and 1930s challenging days indeed. Jewish groups continued lobbying, Arab nations vied for control and geopolitical events conspired to delay the homeland issue until after World War II.

The Holocaust created enormous pressure for a Jewish Homeland. The United Nations, led by the USA and the Soviet Union, created two states, Israel and Jordan, during the momentous days of 1947-1948.

Four wars (1948-49, 1956, 1967 and 1973) and one long "intifada" later, peace is still elusive.

Israel traded land for peace with Egypt in 1978, returning the Sinai and agreeing to Palestinian autonomy.

The Oslo Accords offered the Palestinians a pathway to statehood.

The American "Road Map" pleases no one completely, but it offers yet again another two-state solution.

It is 2003.

Is there any way forward?

Yes, but only if every side shows courage and perseverance.

A Palestinian leader must unequivocally affirm Israel's legitimacy.

New Jewish settlements on potential Palestinian land must be stopped from expanding.

A joint Israeli-Palestinian Task Force must be mobilized to quell the violence and arrest the leaders of any group that vows to subvert peace.

The good offices of the US, Russia and the EU should play a supportive role.

Arab nations who support peace must come forward and offer economic aid so that both states can resettle populations and create viable economies.

These are first steps. The real issues are moral courage for the Palestinians, patience for the Israelis and support from the West.

Next week - California Chaos - Post-Recall Realities

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